Monday, April 21, 2014

Jim Lefebvre (#140)

Today we have the 1965 NL Rookie of the Year, Jim Lefebvre. (Four years later, the Dodgers would have another 2nd baseman win the Rookie of the Year award.)

Lefebvre was signed by the Dodgers in 1962, and played 3 seasons in the minors as a 2nd baseman. He made his big-league debut in April 1965, taking over the 2nd base job from the 1964 tandem of Nate Oliver and Dick Tracewski. Jim started the first 75 games at 2nd base, and by season’s end, had started 154 of the 162 games there. He also chipped in with 12 homers, and was also named the top rookie, with 13 of the 20 votes. (The Astros’ Joe Morgan received 4 votes.)

Jim began the 1966 season as the team’s 3rd baseman, but moved back to second base in early May. Meanwhile, Nate Oliver (2b), Junior Gilliam (3b), and John Kennedy (3b) filled in around him. Lefebvre made his only all-star team in 1966. He tallied career highs in homers (24), RBI (74), and batting average (.274) in his sophomore season.

During this time, he was also one of several pro athletes to make guest appearances on a TV series. Lefebvre was one of the Riddler’s henchmen on “Batman”.

With the Dodgers’ acquisition of 2nd baseman Ron Hunt, Lefebvre spent most of the 1967 season at 3rd base, although he played 2nd base whenever Hunt was out of the lineup (which included most of August).

Hunt moved on to the Giants in 1968, but Lefebvre missed a lot of time with injuries, starting only 53 games at 2B and 17 at 3B. In 1969, he was relegated to the bench for much of the season in favor of rookies Ted Sizemore (117 starts at 2B) and Bill Sudakis (118 starts at 3B). Lefebvre only started 80 games that season, split between 2B, 3B, and 1B.

In 1970, Jim shared the 2nd base job with Sizemore, then with Sizemore having been traded to the Cardinals in the off-season, Lefebvre regained the lion’s share of playing time (97 starts) in 1971.

Lefebvre’s final season with the Dodgers (1972) was spent as a role player, since the 2nd base job was now manned by rookie Lee Lacy and 2nd-year man Bobby Valentine. Jim was released by the Dodgers and played in Japan for the 1973-76 seasons.

After his playing career, he coached for several teams, and managed the Mariners (1989-91), the Cubs (1992-93), and the Brewers (1999). He also coached teams in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.

No comments: